Skip to main content

Full text of "The Cambridge Natural History"

See other formats


368                      WHALES AND " SEA-SGRPKNTS "                     CHAp.
met with. Most of them are southern in range, and the
vast stretches of desolate coast which occur in. these regions of
the world account possibly for the rarity of their remains.
These Whales have done duty more than once for the ce Sea
Serpent/* Quite recently an alleged sea serpent turned out to
be a couple of M'esoplodon lying head to tail! The head in
these Whales is small compared to the body. The skull is
characterised by the strong maxillary crests, enormously deve-
loped in the male Hyperoodon. The vertex of the skull too is
raised, forming a pronounced prominence behind the aperture of
the nares (blow-hole); in many forms the rostrum is made of
very dense bone, and is thus relatively abundant in rock strata.
The pterygoids meet in the middle line as in the Cachalot.
In addition to the few functional teeth in the lower jaw there
are more numerous but small teeth in the upper jaw. These
are not always to be recognised, as they are not attached to the
bone, but merely imbedded in the gums, so that they come away
when the skull is prepared.
The genus JSerardius * differs from M'esoplodon by its rather
more symmetrical skull, of which the vertex is formed by the
nasals. The mesethmoid is only partly ossified. The teeth
are two on each side of the mandible, with their apices directed
forwards. The vertebral formula is C *7, D 10, L, 12, Ca 19.
B. arnouxi, from the seas of IN"ew Zealand, is the only species
of this genus which is well known. It is 30 or 32 feet in
length, and is of a velvety black colour, with a greyish belly.
Instead of lowing like a cow, this Whale has been described
as " bellowing like a bull" I A singular and somewhat inex-
plicable fact has been stated of this species. The teeth were
said to be protrusible, and Sir James Hector stated that the
teeth were imbedded ** in a tough cartilaginous sac which
adheres loosely in the socket of the jaw, and is moved by a
series of muscular bundles that elevate or depress it." Sir
William Elower justly observed that these statements " accord so
little with anything hitherto known in mammalian anatomy
that further observations on the subject are extremely desir-
able/* Like other Ziphioids, JZerardiits feeds mainly, if not
entirely, upon cuttle-fish, a prey eminently suited to their almost
toothless mouths. It is not known whether JBeTardius has the
1 See Moww, Trams, jgbol. Soc. viii. 1872, p. 2O3.